Puttapaka in Nalgonda is now on the global map as the centre for a handloom technique known as Puttapaka Telia Rumal. It secured the coveted Geographical Indication tag recently. “I got a call on May 10 that our application has been accepted and Puttapaka Telia Rumal has been registered. We will get the certificate soon,” informed Gajam Govardhan, who filed the application in 2015 on behalf of Puttapaka handloom cluster. The GI label insulates the uniqueness of the product from duplicates and copycats from other regions.
Telia Rumal is a unique tie and dye technique that uses oil for the treatment of the yarn that helps it retain softness and has a distinct smell of gingelly oil. The earlier patterns used to be strictly geometric or vegetal patterns due to the preference of the patrons, but after 1930s the craftsmen started incorporating figurative elements like lions, elephants, birds, clocks and even aeroplanes, which required better weaving skills. It is no longer handkerchief-size pieces that connoisseurs can buy. The families involved in weaving now create saris, dupattas, dress materials and other made-to-order pieces with the same techniques and exotic patterns.
“In 1975 I visited Chirala while working for the Ministry of Textiles and then I decided to revive the craft which was part of my family heirloom,” says Mr. Govardhan, who hails from a family of weavers. A big marketing splash for the handicraft technique was when it was showcased as part of the Festival of India exhibition in 1980s that toured the world. “Our handlooms cannot be made quickly for online marketing as it requires a long time to create individual pieces. If some big retailer or the government gets involved then we may be able to hawk the products worldwide,” says Mr. Govardhan.
Using just three colours: red ranging from crimson to orange red, brown red and maroonish red, white and black the craftsmen create their magic. Mr. Govardhan has trained 800 other craftsmen so that the technique becomes widespread in the region beyond the 20 families that used to practice earlier.